Richard Dawahare: Options if you're worried about another's mental health

September 24, 2012 

Richard Dawahare, a Lexington attorney, has represented people committed involuntarily.

  • At issue: Sept. 9 Associated Press article, "Neighbors say they feared murder suspect; $1 million bond set in Louisville killing"

Nearly every story of rampage killers contains a trail of clues that in hindsight make it seem obvious the carnage to come was predictable and preventable — if only someone had acted.

Mahmoud Yousef Hindi, the former physician accused of gunning down two members of his Louisville neighborhood's homeowners association, apparently left such a trail. Irrationality mixed with overt hostility is a ticking bomb.

Thankfully, there are three preventive options for dealing with people who are a threat to themselves or others: voluntary submission to a mental health evaluation, involuntary commitment for up to 72 hours for that purpose or an anonymous referral to Adult Protective Services.

The first step, detecting when a friend or loved one is laboring under a mental disability, is the hardest. It is emotionally difficult to come to terms with the reality that the person needs help.

The key test, and the one the law demands for someone to be held involuntarily, is whether the person "presents a danger or threat of danger to self, family or others if not restrained." It is often better to err on the side of caution when dealing with mental instability.

Obviously, voluntary is best. But failing that, one with personal knowledge of the situation may file a petition in court for an involuntary commitment. Once a judge approves, the person may be held and evaluated at a mental health facility for up to 72 hours. If further treatment is needed appropriate steps along the road to recovery will be proscribed.

The third option — making a referral to Adult Protective Services — might be more suitable. You can call anonymously and report what you know about an individual who is in distress. Adult Protective Services will conduct an investigation and take appropriate action.

Mental-health issues are every bit as real as cancer or heart disease. They are often harder to detect in our hectic, everyday existence. But awareness and action on behalf of those who labor under mental distress is an act of love.

For more information: District Court Mental Inquest, (859) 246-2236; Adult Protective Services hot line, (859) 245-5258.

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